Trickle-Down Consumption

55 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2013

See all articles by Marianne Bertrand

Marianne Bertrand

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Adair Morse

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 2013

Abstract

Have rising income and consumption at the top of income distribution since the early 1980s induced households in the lower tiers of the distribution to consume a larger share of their income? Using state-year variation in income level and consumption in the top first quintile or decile of the income distribution, we find evidence for such "trickle-down consumption." The magnitude of effect suggests that middle income households would have saved between 2.6 and 3.2 percent more by the mid-2000s had incomes at the top grown at the same rate as median income. Additional tests argue against permanent income, upwardly-biased expectations of future income, home equity effects and upward price pressures as the sole explanations for this finding. Instead, we show that middle income households' consumption of more income elastic and more visible goods and services appear particularly responsive to top income levels, consistent with supply-driven demand and status-driven explanations for our primary finding. Non-rich households exposed to higher top income levels self-report more financial duress; moreover, higher top income levels are predictive of more personal bankruptcy filings. Finally, focusing on housing credit legislation, we suggest that the political process may have internalized and facilitated such trickle-down.

Suggested Citation

Bertrand, Marianne and Morse, Adair, Trickle-Down Consumption (March 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w18883. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2233775

Marianne Bertrand (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://gsbwww.uchicago.edu/fac/marianne.bertrand/vita/cv_0604.pdf

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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Adair Morse

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business ( email )

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2220 Piedmont Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
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United States

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